The best things to do in Akumal, Mexico

After spending two weeks in the relaxing and tropical beach town of Akumal on Mexico’s Riviera Maya, we’ve assembled a detailed list of attraction recommendations. Follow our list of the best things to do in Akumal for insights on some of the most amazing places and activities to check out in this idyllic beach town.

Most people flock to Akumal for a glimpse of the famous sea turtles, which you can find all over the bay. That’s definitely the main attraction. However, there’s so much more to see and do here and we recommend staying overnight if you can. Use Akumal as a base for a chilled out Mexico beach holiday or visit for a full day of exploration. The choice is yours!

Read on for inspiration on the best things to do in Akumal.

Akumal Beach

Best things to do in Akumal - Shows Akumal Beach sun loungers
Akumal attractions - Beach resort from above

The star attraction in Akumal is undoubtedly the beach. With soft white sand, clear water and a long cove of beautiful scenery, it’s widely regarded as one of the best beaches on Mexico’s east coast. As a coral reef is located just offshore, the sea is almost always calm and it’s shallow in most areas; perfect if you want to go for a swim.

Bring some towels to relax on the beach and go for a long walk along the sand. It can get particularly crowded with snorkelling tours, so be sure to arrive early in the morning, or later in the day for sunset, as the tour groups start to leave. To access the beach , you’ll need to pay a fee of 100 pesos per person. This includes locker rental and use of the changing rooms and showers. Entry is free if you’re staying in one of the beach hotels.

Snorkelling with the turtles and amazing sea-life

Swimming with sea turtles in Akumal
Best things to do in Akumal - Dive Center

Speaking of snorkelling, you can’t come to Akumal and not explore the amazing sea life. People visit from all over Mexico for the renowned snorkelling here, and it’s not to be missed. Snorkelling is by far the best thing to do in Akumal! In recent years, sections of Akumal Bay have been sectioned off and many of the main reefs (with turtles) are only accessible by guided tour.

You can bring your own snorkel with you and roam the seas without a tour. Be warned though, the local tour organisers will warn you not to go beyond the line of buoys, around 100m from the shoreline. You can still see some cool fish, sting rays and coral within this section, but it’s unlikely you’ll see any turtles.

If you want to swim with turtles (and you definitely should!), you’ll need to join an organized tour. They’ll take you out past the buoys to an area rich in sea-grass, which is what the turtles love to eat. The whole beach is full of tour groups and some are better than others, offering price packages that vary from 500 pesos to 1200 pesos for a private group tour. Akumal Dive Shop is widely regarded as the best tour option. Whilst it may be a little more expensive than other tours, they’re the most trusted tour and you’ll have the most amazing snorkelling or scuba experience. Check out their website here.

Go Paddleboarding in the shallow water

Tour center on Akumal Beach
Top things to do in Akumal - Paddle boarding group tour

Have you ever been paddle boarding? If you haven’t, you’re missing out! Stand up on a paddle board and glide out to the ocean, gazing at the transparent water below for the chance to see the local sea-life, and enjoying the calm waves. Akumal Beach has a coral reef-filled cove that is excellent for this beach activity, as the sea is very still. Rent a board and paddle from a vendor on the beach or borrow one from your hotel. This is one of the best things to do in Akumal if you want an energetic beach activity. Just remember to wear lots of sun cream!

Discover Yal Ku Lagoon

Best things to do in Akumal - Shows people snorkelling at Yal Ku Lagoon
Tropical fish at Yal Ku lagoon

At the far northern point of Akumal, Yal Ku Lagoon is an idyllic fresh water lagoon that meets the mouth of the ocean. This results in a large area that’s full of sea life! Go snorkelling with colourful tropical fish and embrace the beauty of the lagoon. It’s the single best place for guaranteed tropical fish swimming around you in their hundreds.

To get there, you can either take a taxi, rent a golf cart or walk 20 minutes from the Akumal Beach area of town. Entry costs 300 pesos per person, plus the cost of any snorkelling equipment that you rent. You can bring your own gear, but will need to rent a mandatory life jacket if you don’t have one. We personally opted for a life jacket, snorkel and fins. Yal Ku is one of the best things to do in Akumal for water lovers.

Relax on Half Moon Bay

Overhead shot of Half Moon Bay

Just north of Akumal Bay, Half Moon is a quieter and larger stretch of beach that’s shaped like, you guessed it, a half moon. It’s one of the best things to do in Akumal for quiet relaxation. It features long scenic walks, and is also good for a spot of snorkelling, being a lot less crowded that Akumal Bay due to the lack of snorkelling tours. It’s also a popular place to stay in the area, with a long stretch of private condos, houses and a couple of small hotels.

Half Moon Bay is fairly difficult to access without accommodation. Therefore, we recommend stopping by La Buena Vida or La Lunita bar and restaurants. These popular eateries have easy access to the beach and are also great places to grab a snack. Kick back on one of the sun loungers and enjoy cocktails all afternoon long, or go for a swim. You can also snorkel if you have your own gear, but be careful, as the sea is a little rough in some areas.

Aktun-Chen Caves

Akumal attractions - Shows interior of Aktun Chen Caves
Deep cave cavern

The Riviera Maya region of Mexico is home to countless cenotes and underground rivers. However, not many are as impressive as Aktun Chen. This vast underground network of caves was once the spiritual retreat for the Mayans and they’re held to very high regard. The caves are said to date back up to 5 million years, creating a labyrinth of impressive rock formations. Stalagmite and stalactites are everywhere to be seen and the best cave is left until last, showcasing a beautiful section of the underground river.

Aktun Chen is part of an organised natural park and to visit you’ll need to book a tour on their official website. The full cave tour takes around 1 hour and this is the must see attraction. However, you can also do various other activities. Swim in a cenote, go on a ziplining adventure or walk around the small animal zoo.

Enjoy Sunset drinks at Lo-Ha or La Buena Vida

Sunset cocktails at La Buena Vida

With all of the snorkelling and adventure in Akumal, you’ll certainly want to retreat to the shade for some relaxation. This is exactly where Lo-Ha or La Buena Vida comes in… They’re the go-to bar and restaurants for Akumal’s beach areas, with Lo-Ha situated directly on Akumal Bay in front of the snorkelling tours. La Buena Vida is a 15-minute walk away on Half Moon Bay, providing equally as impressive scenery as you enjoy lunch or a cocktail.

Visit either of these quirky bar/restaurants and enjoy as many sunset cocktails as you wish for! They’re the perfect places to end your day in Akumal.

Go gift shopping at the entrance of Akumal Beach

Best things to do in Akumal - Shows a gift shop by the beach
Quirky café in Akumal

If you want a break from the sun on Akumal Beach or fancy a spot of gift shopping, the small streets beyond the Akumal arches are a great place to check out. This slightly hidden area (view on map here) is home to a number of gift shops, clothing stalls and a couple of very cool and colourful bars and restaurants (La Cueva del Pescador and Turtle Bay Bakery and Cafe). We personally bought a cool Christmas decoration here and then enjoyed a cocktail with some upbeat music at the bar. Expect vibrant colours and ‘Day of the Dead’ style decoration everywhere!

Visit Akumal Pueblo

Akumal Graffiti Wall

Most tourists only visit the beachfront whilst in Akumal, not realizing that a small local town is only a 20-minute walk away. Akumal Pueblo is inland from the beach and is accessible by car or by walking over the highway overpass. It has a completely different atmosphere compared to the tourist-packed Akumal Beach, being the main residential area for locals.

Get lost amongst the colourful buildings, visit the local market and embrace the laid back atmosphere of this more traditional area of Akumal. The very best thing to do here is to sample the local taco eateries and restaurants. You’ll get an authentic taste of Mexican cuisine at very low prices. The smell of the BBQ smoker’s that line the streets will lure you in as soon as you arrive in town!

Check out the Akumal Graffiti Wall

Colourful Graffiti artwork

We stumbled upon the Akumal Graffiti Wall by accident during our visit. It’s situated directly between Akumal Beach and Akumal Pueblo (town), drawn on the underpass road that divides the two areas. As you walk between the two towns, be sure to stop by to check it out! It features a long wall of colourful Mayan designs that are reminiscent with the modern interpretation of Mexico, mixed with old tradition.  You’ll need to cross the overpass bridge to see the full wall. View it on a map here.

Bathe in Pueblo Magico Uxuxubi Cenote

Shows a jungle trail that leads to a Cenote

If you’re in Akumal Pueblo and want to have a break from all the sightseeing, take a short walk north-west of town and out into the jungle. Once you arrive at Pueblo Magico Uxuxubi you’ll be greeted by a handful of family members. They manage entrance to the cenote and are extremely friendly! You can then spend your morning or afternoon relaxing in this small but picturesque natural pool. Half of the cenote is outdoors in the sunshine, whilst the other half is shaded under a cave.

Pueblo Magico Uxuxubi may not be as impressive as other nearby cenotes, but its easy to reach location just outside of town is accessible by walking. Meanwhile, you’ll need transport for many of the other local cenotes.

Meet the local wildlife at Akumal Animal Sanctuary

Parrot at Akumal Animal Sanctuary

One of the best things to do in Akumal for children is a half day visit to Akumal Animal Sanctuary. This small but top-rated animal park is located in Akumal Pueblo and has been set up as a rehabilitation and care centre for the region’s local wildlife. During your 2-hour tour you get to see the animals up close and personal. You can take pictures with monkeys, talk with parrots and learn about the great effort that goes into looking after the animals.

We were originally surprised at the seemingly high cost of visiting the park. Apparently, the price is reminiscent of the high costs of looking after the animals. It’s very much an attraction for animal lovers or families that want up-close interactions with some amazing wildlife. We don’t recommend it if you’re looking for an attraction with lots to see, or if meeting the animals isn’t high on your agenda.

Relax in a luxury beach resort

Top things to do in Akumal - Shows sun loungers in a beach resort

One of the best things to do in Akumal is not only visiting the cool attractions on offer, but also staying there. We spent 10 nights in the Akumal Bay Beach and Wellness Resort and can honestly say it was one of the best hotel experiences we’ve ever had! You have the idyllic Akumal Beach on your doorstep and can snorkel as much as you like! You’re not limited to a short single day visit or 1 hour snorkelling tour.

The two highest rated resorts on Akumal Beach are Akumal Bay Beach and Wellness Resort and Secrets Akumal, with the latter hotel being the most luxurious and exclusive. Stay in either of these 5-star hotels and you can experience Akumal for longer. They’re both all-inclusive accommodation options that have an abundance of activities.

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The best Things to do near Akumal

Whilst not strictly in Akumal, the following destinations are only a short drive away. You can visit them as part of a full day trip to Akumal, or if you’re based in Akumal and want to explore a little further afield.

Kantun Chi Cenote Park (10 minute drive from Akumal)

Kantun Chi underground cave
Akumal attractions - Shows an outdoor cenote and Kantun Chi

If you want to visit some Cenotes whilst staying in Akumal, or as part of a combined-stop trip to the town, you can’t miss Kantun Chi nature park! If you’re unfamiliar with what a cenote is, it’s a natural pit, or sinkhole, resulting from the collapse of limestone bedrock. They’re amazing places to see and you can swim in many of them throughout Mexico.

The great thing about Kantun Chi nature park is that it has 5 cenotes in one destination, plus an underground river walk. We visited all cenotes at the park and were blown away by the natural beauty! Rather than seeing a single cenote and then travelling to see another, you have many in one place.

Xcaret Park (25-minute drive from Akumal)

Scenic view of the river at Xcaret Park
Best things to do in Akumal - Flamingos at Xcaret Park

Not only is Xcaret Park one of the best things to do near Akumal, it’s currently rated the number one attraction in Riviera Maya on Tripadvisor. It boasts thousands of 5-star reviews! This huge natural theme park has been carved out of the natural scenery and is designed to give you an all-in-one Mexico experience. It features three long underground rivers where you can swim. There’s also a snorkelling reef, an amazing aquarium and many more cool water activities.

The other side of the park features a lot more traditional Mexican attractions. Wonder through a colourful Mexican village, see real Mayan ruins, experience a live show, or stop by one of the many animal exhibits. The design and experience you’ll get at Xcaret Park is unlike anything you’ve ever seen and it’s well worth the visit. It’ll take you a full day (from 9am until 8pm) to see if fully.

Xel-Ha Park (8-minute drive from Akumal)

Chairs overlooking the lagoon at Xel-Ha Park
Image courtesy of Kyttzy Wikipedia CC

Operated by the same company as Xcaret Park and one of the many ‘X’ parks in Riviera Maya, Xel-Ha is another theme park that has been created from the natural environment. It’s known as the best park for water activities and any day out here is a whole lot of fun! It’s made up of a series of natural lagoons, rivers and cenotes, all of which you can swim in.

Go snorkelling to see an array of tropical fish, whizz down the slides, or float along the natural riverways at your leisure. Xel-Ha can be either relaxing, adventure-filled, or a bit of both! It’s an all-inclusive water park so all of your drinks and food are included throughout the day. Visit their website here for more information, and be sure to check out some videos!

Cenote Dos Ojos (16-minute drive from Akumal)

Best things to do in Akumal - Cenote Dos Ojos underground cenote

If you’ve researched the top things to do in Riviera Maya, you’ve probably heard of Cenote Dos Ojos. It’s the most famous cenote of them all… Translated to ‘two eyes’ in English and given its name due to the neighbouring turquoise sinkholes, Dos Ojos is truly a sight to behold. Dive deep into the turquoise water and explore the cave complex to your leisure, which is still being uncovered to this day.

Bathe in the fresh, warm water, take some cool pictures, or gear up and dive deeper on a scuba diving tour. There’s a lot to see at its depths and any keen divers will be amazed at the view of Dos Ojos from under the water. It’s one of the largest cenotes near Akumal, but also the most crowded. Arrive as early as possible to see its beauty with very little tourists. You may even be lucky enough to have it all to yourself for a short while!

That wraps up our complete list of the best things to do in Akumal. Whether you’re staying in Akumal or visiting for the day, plan an action packed itinerary of adventure, but don’t forget about relaxation. That’s just as important when you’re in one of the most picturesque beach paradises of Mexico’s Riviera Maya. If we missed anything from our list or if you have any questions about the Akumal attractions we’ve featured, be sure to leave us a comment below. 😊

Ricky

By Ricky

Author bio:

An adventurer at heart that loves anything outdoors. Beaches, mountains and amazing scenery is everything I love about travel! I also enjoy home comforts and need a nice place to relax and re-charge after every trip.

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